Tag Archives: The Hill

Conway bristles at legitimate question

CNN correspondent Dana Bash doesn’t need little ol’ me to defend her … but I’ll defend her anyway.

Bash interviewed White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway over the weekend and asked her what I believe is a totally legitimate question. Conway bristled bigly at the inquiry, suggesting that Bash wouldn’t have asked the question of a man. Bash said she would “a thousand percent.”

Bash wanted to know how Conway handles the tweets that have come from her husband, noted lawyer George Conway, that have been quite critical of Donald J. Trump’s policy pronouncements.

George Conway has since taken the message down from his Twitter account, but … as they say: You can’t unhonk the horn.

Kellyanne Conway took serious umbrage at Bash’s line of questioning.

What I heard, though, was Bash inquiring about whether a senior policy adviser to the president of the United States had any issues with her husband — who happens to be a highly regarded and respected lawyer in D.C. — questioning the policies delivered by the Leader of the Free World.

I didn’t detect any snarkiness in Bash’s question. I didn’t hear any disrespect in her voice. I heard a serious-minded question that deserved a serious-minded response.

Instead, we all heard Kellyanne Conway impugn the integrity of a serious broadcast journalist working for a serious media organization. As The Hill reported: “It’s fascinating to me that CNN would go there, but it’s very good for the whole world to have just witnessed … that it’s now fair game how people’s spouses and significant others may differ with them,” Conway told CNN’s Dana Bash.

To borrow a word from Conway’s boss: Sad.

Chaos is Trump’s guiding light

Every single attempt to predict what Donald Trump will do seems to result in head-scratching, hair-pulling, forehead-slapping frustration.

With that, I have to suggest that reporting today that the president might be back away from threats to fire the special counsel and the deputy U.S. attorney general who appointed him is an exercise in futility.

The Hill is reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein are safe … for the time being.

How does The Hill know this? Beats me, man.

The Hill noted that Trump said during a presser with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that Mueller and Rosenstein “are still here” despite months of conjecture that the president might fire one or both of them.

According to The Hill: That said, predicting Trump’s next move has long been a fool’s errand. Some people in his orbit insist that his underlying anger about the investigation is as strong as ever. 

There you have it. Trump cannot be pigeonholed. He operates in a sort of parallel political universe. The norms that guide conventional political behavior do not apply to this guy.

He seemingly has no one in what passes for his “orbit” who can tell him the truth. There’s no Bobby Kennedy figure, or James Baker consigliere who can tell the president that he’s acting foolishly.

This carnival barker listens only to one voice. His own. I keep circling back to the notion that his prior pre-presidential life was dedicated only to personal enrichment.

The president of the United States does not understand the intricacies of the profession to which he was elected.

None of it!

What will he do with regard to Mueller? Or Rosenstein? Any effort to try to stay ahead of this guy only produces extreme madness.

But … he likes it that way. Right?

Here’s a thought: Stress diplomacy over nukes

Donald Trump has offered a word of praise to Hawaii officials.

The president lauds them for taking “full responsibility” for the near-panic caused when someone “pushed the wrong button” and sent out an false alarm that declared there was an incoming missile from … possibly North Korea.

As The Hill reports:

“That was a state thing but we are going to now get involved with them. I love that they took responsibility. They took total responsibility,” Trump told reporters Sunday.

“But we are going to get involved. Their attitude and their — I think it is terrific. They took responsibility. They made a mistake,” he continued.

When asked what he will do to prevent a similar false alert from taking place, Trump didn’t answer directly but said, “we hope it won’t happen again.

He added, again according to The Hill:

“Part of it is people are on edge, but maybe eventually we will solve the problem so they won’t have to be so on edge,” Trump said.

Yes, they are “on edge,” Mr. President. Indeed, Trump’s bellicosity along with the unpredictability of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has put millions of Americans — not just those in Hawaii — on edge.

With that, I’ll offer a modest suggestion for the president: How about stressing diplomacy and setting aside the threats of “fire and fury,” “total annihilation” and using a “big nuclear button”?

The military option we keep hearing about ought to be the option of last resort — not the first, second or third resort. Military confrontation with North Korea is, shall we say, fraught with grievous consequences.

I, too, am glad that Hawaii officials have owned their mistake. Hawaii Gov. David Ige has apologized to his constituents and, by extension, to the rest of the nation.

Yes, the federal government can get involved. The commander in chief can set aside the tough talk and start sending signals to North Korea that it’s time to settle our differences through diplomacy.

A new AG is on his/her way?

Donald John Trump Sr.’ s “fine-tuned machine” has hit another pot hole.

It has opened up in the Department of Justice. The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is now getting skewered by foes on both sides of the political divide.

Democrats detest Sessions mostly for partisan reasons; now even some Republicans are turning on him. Some of them dislike his recusal from the Russian 2016 election meddling investigation, which led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller; others dislike him because he rescinded an Obama administration memo that allowed states to determine how to enforce laws governing the use of marijuana.

As The Hill reports: “When you have Republicans calling for you to step down and you’re in a Republican administration just entering your second year, that’s trouble. He’s really on borrowed time,” said Brian Darling, a Republican strategist and former Senate aide.

Donald Trump himself is angry at Sessions. Why? The recusal, that’s why. The president once said that if he’d known Sessions would have recused himself from the Russia probe he would have selected someone else.

Now we hear from the media that Trump sent White House counsel Don McGahn to the DOJ to try to talk Sessions out of recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

All of this is highly unusual. It borders on bizarre. It also speaks — yet again — the disarray that has become the hallmark of Donald Trump’s administration.

He called it a “fine-tuned machine.” It is nothing of the sort. It is a jalopy in need of a top-to-bottom overhaul.

Trump’s first year: some hits, some misses

Donald Trump is ending 2017 on a high.

He managed to stuff a tax cut down our throats, with help from his Republican allies in both congressional chambers. I get that everyone likes to pay less in taxes. What’s unclear at this moment is whether the cuts are going to help every American or just the rich folks, like Donald Trump.

It will explode the national budget deficit, which used to drive Republican politicians crazy. Not any longer … apparently.

The Hill newspaper listed the president’s top 10 accomplishments as 2017 draws to a close. The paper selected the tax cut as No. 1, citing it as a campaign promised kept.

I would call it a mixed blessing — at best!

Here’s The Hill list

My own top Trump accomplishment would be The Hill’s No. 10: fighting and degrading the status of the Islamic State.

The president vowed during the 2016 campaign that he would destroy ISIS. The commander in chief has carried on with great vigor the battle against ISIS, al-Qaeda and other lesser-known terrorist organizations. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama launched and continued that fight.

Trump has said in recent days that ISIS has been defeated in Syria and Iraq. Indeed, the Iraqis have declared victory in their fight against ISIS, which they have waged with continued U.S. military support, advice and training.

We all know the war will go on possibly forever. This post-9/11 world has put the entire planet on high alert, where it likely must remain as long as the forces of evil lurk anywhere on Earth.

I applaud the president’s effort to keep up the fight.

What about the rest of The Hill’s lineup?

The Neil Gorsuch appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court? I wouldn’t have picked Justice Gorsuch for that spot. Period. End of argument. He’s far too right wing for my taste.

Rolling back of regulations? This is one of many anti-Obama initiatives that Trump has vowed to do. To what end? It looks to me as if he just wants to undo his immediate predecessor’s agenda.

The travel ban? The president has implemented an anti-Muslim ban that smacks of religious discrimination. Shameful.

Declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? This move has set Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts back at least a decade. The Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital, too.

Pulling out of Paris climate deal? We are virtually alone in this effort to curb carbon emissions.

Withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Hey, aren’t Republicans supposed to be “free traders”? Oh, wait! Trump isn’t a real Republican, even though the rock-ribbed base of his party’s support stands by him. Confusing.

Rolling back of Obama’s Cuba policies? Are you kidding me? What kind of threat does a Third World, dirt-poor country like Cuba pose to the world’s greatest military and economic power?

Repealing the net neutrality rules? Trump wants to release the Internet from any government regulations. This one is scary in a still-vague manner. It well might unleash forces we cannot even fathom.

I wish I could support more of what The Hill ranks as the president’s biggest victories. I can’t.

Longing for when presidents were gracious winners

You remember Sally Yates, right? She is the former deputy U.S. attorney general fired by Donald J. Trump because she wouldn’t enforce the president’s ban on Muslims seeking to enter the country.

She’s now speaking out against the president’s insistence that the Justice Department investigate Hillary Rodham Clinton. For what is not entirely clear. The president just keeps hammering at and yammering about Clinton.

Yates wrote this in a tweet, according to The Hill: “DOJ not a tool for POTUS to use to go after his enemies and protect his friends,” Yates said in a tweet Saturday. “Respect rule of law and DOJ professionals. This must stop.”

Oh, how I long for the days when presidents won elections, got about the business of governing, said a good word about their opponents and then let bygones be bygones … even after tough and bruising political campaigns.

Donald Trump isn’t wired that way. In fact, he is not wired to govern effectively, to assume the office of the presidency with grace and dignity. Oh no. He’s wired instead to keep up the battle. He wants to re-litigate an election he won. He wants to keep smearing his opponents’ faces in the fact that he won an Electoral College victory.

There once was a time when presidents didn’t obsess over past battles — particularly those they won. They instead looked ahead exclusively to the myriad challenges that lay before them.

Not Trump. He said in a radio interview: “The saddest thing is, because I’m the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved in the Justice Department. I am not supposed to be involved in the FBI. I’m not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing and I’m very frustrated by it.”

Uh, Mr. President? You are the president of the United States. You have the power to do whatever you want — within the law and the U.S. Constitution. If you choose to move away from the 2016 election — which you won! — then just do so.

Dammit!

Trump declares a new culture war

Donald John Trump Sr. just cannot stop getting angry with institutions, people and anything or anyone else.

He’s now declaring a new culture war. He’s stirring up conflict where little — if any of it — exists in the moment.

The president went to the Values Voter Conference and declared his intention to get retail employees to say “Merry Christmas” to customers; he doesn’t like the “Happy Holidays” greeting that some retail outlets deliver to their customers.

Good ever-lovin’ grief, dude! Get a bleeping grip!

Trump unloads

As The Hill reports, Trump’s intent to persuade Americans that there exists some elite class that denigrates their values. He believes they care more about diversity and political correctness than anything else.

What utter crap!

He continues to play to the base that stands with him. He continues to divide Americans along more lines than many of us even knew existed. Now he’s seeking to divide Americans based on whether they insist on receiving Christmas greetings.

Ridiculous.

This angry message runs directly counter to the president’s pledge to unify the country. He won an Electoral College victory while garnering nearly 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Rodham Clinton. He became president with zero political capital to spend. Trump needed to build up that capital by working with Democrats and moderate Republicans on a whole host of legislative priorities.

He chose instead to lob bombs at them.

He’s now heaving political ordnance at Americans while firing the initial shots of this culture war that, in my humble view, is a figment of this guy’s imagination.

It all leaves me wondering whether Donald Trump seems somehow angry that he won the election. How in the world can that be?

How can Trump blunder this part of his job?

The president of the United States takes an oath of office that implies a lot of unwritten responsibilities in addition to those that are explicitly laid out.

One of those tasks the president assumes is to lend aid, comfort, empathy and understanding to Americans in trouble. The president at this moment has a huge undertaking on his hands. It rests on island territories not terribly far from the east coast of the United States.

Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have been decimated by Hurricane Maria. Local officials there are pleading for more help. Yes, they are critical of the president’s public response to their pleas. So, what does Donald John Trump do in response? He fires off tweets that place much of the blame for the islands’ troubles … on the islands themselves.

Such as this one: “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”

It doesn’t stop there. The president takes public note of Puerto Rico’s debt problems that existed prior to Maria’s violent arrival and wonders aloud just how the federal government is going to be able to provide all the assistance that local authorities are seeking.

Trump ignites Twitter tirade

As The Hill reports: “San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz held an emotional press conference Friday ripping the Trump administration’s efforts to assist the island.

“I will do what I never thought I was going to do. I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency,” she said.

Trump responds to that with more criticism of the mayor. Empathy? Compassion? They appear to be MIA. He’s effectively making himself — big surprise, eh? — the center of this story.

The president’s team keeps telling us he’s “a fighter,” that he doesn’t like getting hit. So, when someone throws a rhetorical punch at him, he’s going to punch back. Does it matter to Trump that the person in this instance who’s throwing punches is desperate for federal aid to save the island where she lives and the city she governs? Quite obviously no.

I’ll reiterate yet again that the president is failing to fulfill the unwritten part of his job description. He’s not lending aid and comfort to his constituents who need help. He’s inflaming an already-critical situation with heartless rhetoric.

Shameful.

Supply and demand and supply …

Energy Secretary Rick Perry is supposed to know about these things.

He was governor of Texas for a zillion years. Before that he was lieutenant governor. Before that he was the state’s agriculture commissioner.

He’s supposed to know some basic economics, or one should think. Yes? OK. He went to West Virginia today and spoke at a coal-fired power plant. Then the secretary said this: “Here’s a little economics lesson: supply and demand,” Perry said, according to reports. “You put the supply out there, and the demand will follow.”

To borrow a word that Perry himself made famous during the 2012 Republican presidential primary campaign: Oops!

I believe the secretary had it exactly backward. My understanding of economics suggests this: Demand drives supply, not the other way around.

Or, as The Hill reported: “Twitter users were quick to find fault with Perry’s use of the term, which is defined in the dictionary as the law that ‘an increase in supply will lower prices if not accompanied by increased demand, and an increase in demand will raise prices unless accompanied by increased supply.'”

Check out some of those tweets.

This won’t signal the end of the world or anything like that. I just recall how candidate Donald Trump ridiculed his 2016 GOP opponent for donning eyewear to “make himself look smart.” That was a cruel cut, to be sure.

However, if the president is going to surround himself with “the best people,” as he promised, then he needs them to articulate a basic economic tenet about supply and demand.

Earth to Bannon: Actually, it is a debate

Steven Bannon apparently thinks he can demand whatever he wants and he expects those from whom he demands it to deliver.

Wrong!

The Hill is reporting that Bannon sought to pressure conservative Republican members of Congress into supporting Donald Trump’s alternative to the Affordable Care Act by informing them “this is not a discussion.”

Here is what The Hill reported: “Bannon confronted members of the House Freedom Caucus earlier this week during the White House’s push for the American Health Care Act, Axios’s Mike Allen reported Saturday in his newsletter.

“‘Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill,’ Bannon reportedly said.

“A Freedom Caucus member reportedly replied: ‘You know, the last time someone ordered me to something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn’t listen to him, either.'”

There you have it. The White House senior policy adviser tries to browbeat a group of politicians — who have their constituencies to whom they must answer — that they must support a piece of legislation that their “bosses” back home don’t like.

How in the world does that work in the political world?

Well, as Bannon and his boss — the president of the United States — learned the hard way this week, not well at all.

Trump couldn’t be bothered with specifics about the bill, according to The Hill, which reported that the president met with Freedom Caucus members in the White House prior to the decision to give up on the idea of repealing the ACA.

To hell with details? Is that the deal?

As for Bannon’s bluster and bullying, he has just learned that politicians don’t like being told their ideas don’t matter.